Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
Abraham Lincoln

The Republican Party and their pals in the corporate owned media have been sending a constant message out to the public that unions are a problem and a drain on the economy.  They claim that the states are broke and it’s due to how much they give union workers.  These claims are being hailed and repeated over and over as it indoctrinates the public[ including union workers] that we, the working class, are now making too much in wages and benefits and we must help the government clamp down by paying for more ourselves.  Now lets examine how the working class can manage to do this.

According to the Monthly Labor Review, unions made the middle class strong by fighting for and winning a workers right to  have a strong voice in both the market and in our democracy. When unions are strong they are able to ensure that workers are paid fair wages, receive the training they need to advance to the middle class, and are considered in corporate decision-making processes. Unions also promote political participation among all Americans, and help workers secure government policies that support the middle class, such as Social Security, family leave,  the 40 hour work week and the minimum wage.

But as unions became weaker over the past forty years, they were less and less able to perform these functions—and the middle class withered. Their numbers steadily declined largely because politically driven legislation prevents private-sector workers from freely exercising their right to join or not to join a union. Membership in private-sector unions are now 7 percent, from around 30 percent in the late 1960s. Public-sector unionization remained stable for decades—it was 37 percent in 1979 and is 36 percent today, but they are now designing the illusion that it has grown out of control over the years which makes it seem as if their attacks on them from conservative political opposition are justifiable and reducing their numbers is warranted.  The total union workforce is now less than 12 percent , and this percentage is likely to continue hemorrhaging unless we do something to stop the bleeding and heal the wound.

It amazes me as to why no one has asked the Congress and the Senate to take a pay and benefits cut.  The rank and file members of the House and Senate are $174,000.00 per year.  The House and Senate Leaders [Majority and Minority] are paid $193,400.00 per year.  The Speaker of the House earns $223,500.00 per year.  Each member gets an automatic COLA every year unless Congress votes not to accept it.  Let’s wait on that to happen.  Members pay 1.3 percent of their salaries into their retirement plans and 6.2 percent of wages into Social Security taxes, with an annual wage maximum of $106,800.00. They are eligible for a pension  at age 50 after completing 20 years of service or after completing 25 years of service at any age or after the age of 62.  You would have had to service 5 years to receive any pension.  The amount that the member gets depends on the years of service and the average amount of the highest 3 years of his or her salary.  Their salaries also affect the salaries for federal judges and other senior government executives. They receive the same health benefits available to other federal employees.  Is this shared sacrifice?

Without the counterbalance of workers united together in unions, the middle class withers, the economy and politics tend to be dominated by the rich and powerful, and as we are now seeing, this leads to an even greater flow of money in our economy to the top of the income scale. As union membership declines the middle class wages declines and all working class wages and benefits declines.  But if we pull together and give up some more of our pay increases and pay more into our health care and pension benefits, we can continue to support the tax breaks for the top 1 percent and the CEOs can continue to see an increase in their million dollar salaries.  I’m sure that will keep a smile on the face of shareholders and maybe next budget they will allow us take to the streets and beg as the rich goes by, so that we can pay what they charge for our rents, mortgages, food and most of all health care.

In recent years, the middle class accounted for the smallest share of the nation’s income ever since the end of World War II, when this data was first began being collected. 60 percent of all Americans, received only 46 percent of the nation’s income in 2009, down from around 53 percent in 1969.

The middle class weakened over the past several decades because the rich secured the lion’s share of the economy’s gains. The share of pretax income earned by the richest 1 percent of Americans more than doubled between 1974 and 2007, climbing to 18 percent from 8 percent. And for the richest of the rich—the top 0.1 percent—the gains have been even more astronomical—quadrupling over this period, rising to 12.3 percent of all income from 2.7 percent.  CEO pay has gone up an average 20 percent just in 2010 according to an article in the New York Times.

With all of the earnings of the richest 1 percent, this group was given several tax cuts in addition to the tax loop holes they used to avoid taxes.  In 2010 GE reported 5.2 billion U.S. profit but got a refund of approximately 3 billion..  Bank of America has 2.2 trillion in assets, yet it pays less percentage in taxes than the average American household, as Verizon who reported 24.2 billion in pre-tax U.S. income and claimed a Federal  corporate refund of over 1 billion.  The tax rate is 35 percent yet these corporations pay less  than 10 percent in taxes.  But instead of the corporate tax cheats that are bankrupting America, they use union as the resource of our political arena.  They wouldn’t dare attack their corporate sponsor Citigroup who were the largest recipient of bailout monies [476 billion] but paid no taxes for the last 4 years.  Instead the quote by the republican party is ” America doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.”  Yet the more tax breaks they get, the more jobs they send overseas.

I contend that when Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s [Chairman of the House Budget Committee]  sells the Path to Prosperity  budget agenda, it is meant to continue to facilitate the corporate oligarchy plan of socializing losses and privatizing gains.  The gains that were made because of our labor. After all the tax cuts and profits, he wants to reduce taxes on the wealthy by another 10 percent [ from 35% to 25%] while continuing to cut entitlements for the poor and seniors who are on fixed incomes.  They have succeeded in convincing the public through their corporate owned media, that you run a government budget the same way as you would run your household budget.  At the same time the push to privatize every government function on the premise that the private sector who are experienced in running businesses can do these functions better than the government.  Well as we see with our health insurance companies [premiums are skyrocketing and you and I are not getting anymore for our money], our military [Xe Services…previously known as Blackwater USA gets over $600.00 up to $10,000.00 a day, depending on who you are guarding, contractor or diplomat and how well you negotiate] and our prisons, in each case our tax dollars pay for it while the corporations reap the benefits.  As for our health care, our taxes funds the research and the companies patent the breakthroughs [socializing the risk and privatizing the profits].  You cannot run a government the same way you do a household budget…capitalism is not designed that way.  A government is going to always have debt and revenue.  It has a different function than a household has.

We must make up our minds to win and not be divided or distracted from our goal.  We must not let them throw in the public union making more than the private union scam [not true] to divide union against union and non-union against union.  We must not let them throw in the lie that it’s the migrant worker who is stealing your jobs, because there has always been immigrants coming to this country legally and illegally.  It’s just that the ones that have not come by way of Europe are not given many visas, just work permits to come and work the fields and be exploited by their rich employers.  We must not let them tell us that the person on welfare is why we are going broke, because the fact is that AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and Food Stamps take up only 1% each of federal and state budgets.  When they put out these illusions, it is for the sole purpose of making us [and they know that we will] turn on the victim like we always do.  I say victim because what is being done to us now has already been  done to them tenfold by the same corporations.  We must not let them pit the workers in the right to work states against union, because through their propaganda, they have taught those people that union workers would hurt the economy because if they pay them the salaries and benefits that they demand, then they can only afford to hire less than 1/2 of  the amount of workers and therefore they would be out of work or they would have to pay them less for their labor.  They also threaten to close down saying that they can’t stay competitive.  Who are they competing with, themselves?  It’s the same players in the global markets.  In the meantime those workers have not done their homework on the benefits of being a union worker.  For instance, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, in 2003, states with right-to-work laws in general had a higher rate of workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers.

We must begin to EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE.  We must educate ourselves, our families, our neighbors, even our co-workers who want to believe that they could be a part of the aristocrats if it weren’t for those lazy workers, or the so-called illegal immigrant.  The immigrant, who if they come from Europe they are your sonogram and mammogram imaging technician, but if they are non-white they are systematically and automatically looked upon as illegal.  But without the immigrant in the past, wages nor opportunity would not have ever increased for the American worker.  We must be educated enough to know that in the words of Pres. James Madison,  America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.  So let them not win by playing to our prejudices small mindedness, and lack of education because the RICH are counting on our ignorance.

Let us understand our VALUE.  WE AS THE WORKING CLASS ARE THE MOST VALUABLE ASSET TO THIS COUNTRY, CORPORATIONS AND THE WORLD. We are the reason that the wealthy have their wealth.  We must stand up and fight for our rights to a living wage and pension.  We must DEMAND our rightful share of the wealth that WE CREATED. We must fight for our right to WORK and RETIRE with DIGNITY because WE EARNED IT!

Penny McQuaig


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